Christmas  is a feast of joy, peace hope and love. It celebrates the birth of Jesus about 2,000 years ago at Bethlehem. When King Herod ruled Judea (now part of Israel), god sent the angel Gabriel to a young woman who lived in the town of Nazareth. The girl’s name was Mary and she was engaged to marry Joseph. The angel said to her: “Don’t be afraid, god has been very kind to you.”

On the night of this special event, the angels announced to the shepherds who were grazing the sheep, “Glory to god in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” Thus Christmas is the feast, which proclaims glory and honour to god and at the same time peace and joy to ordinary people. In a way it relates god with people, just like Jesus, who is truly god and truly a human, according to the Christian belief.

Christmas comes true for us if we seek to follow this path of love, sacrifice and forgiveness. How many times I feel agitated then people instigate against me. How many times I feel unhappy and jealous when someone supersedes me. I feel agitated when people unfairly target me with their unpleasant acts. But then, Christmas comes to us this season with the message of hope and forgiveness. Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for us on the Cross of Calvary as the ultimate sacrifice for mankind. He didn’t feel agitated that the people crucified him, pierced his hands and legs with large nails, speared him in the chest; put a crown of thorns on his head. But Jesus simply said to god, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” That is the true message of forgiveness. If we celebrate Christmas today, let us do this with fun-filled carols and merrymaking but also remembering this message of love and forgiveness shown by Christ.

Jesus Christ chose to be born in a manger, surrounded by livestock of sheep and cows in a very lowly place. He didn’t seek the comforts of kings and palaces. He didn’t seek to be felicitated by the world, but on Christmas, Christ comes to you with his message of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control for all mankind.

It is true. Christ, who is the king of kings, didn’t get a room to stay. He was, in today’s words, a migrant or a refugee. Jesus’ parents had to move from their home and they could not find an inn. So they found housing in a cattle shed and the baby Jesus was born in a manger! As he grew up, Jesus radiated the love of god. Though he did so many good things, like healing the sick, eating with the outcasts and proclaimed the love of god, he was crucified. He died the death of a criminal abandoned by most of his disciples.

Thus the message of Christmas is joy that comes through suffering. It is hope that comes through disappointments. It is peace, even when there is so much of war and violence. It is love, even when we experience so much of selfishness and hatred.

Christmas affirms that all of us, especially the poor, downtrodden and marginalised, are affirmed, accepted by god. It implies that in spite of all the evil in our hearts, we are called to live in peace and harmony. It affirms that such a life of hope, joy and peace is truly possible.

May we all, Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers, experience hope, peace and joy! This will help us to love one another and truly serve everyone! May we give and forgive!

(The writer is professor of science and religion and author of Death: Live it!)

Kuruvilla Pandikattu